Pronounced: [Drak – you – la]
Dracula is part of the Pleurothallidinae subtribe and in total there are some 100+ different species and still counting. They grow at high elevations (1500m to 2500m) from southern Mexico, through the forested slopes of north western Ecuador to Colombia. Dracula literally means ‘little dragon’ and also alludes to Count Dracula, the vampire from Transylvania as written by 19th century author Bram Stoker. The dragon-like shape of the flower, its fear of sunlight and dark and misty home, make this name most apt.
HOW TO GROW DRACULAS
CONDITIONS: Draculas usually grow epiphytically in rich mossy humus in well drained, shaded places in moist forests where the humidity stays high and the night temperatures become chilly. The spikes of most species descend and emerge from the loose substrate to produce flowers some distance from the plant. Most species produce flowers successively throughout the year, so don’t remove the spikes until you are sure the plant really has finish flowering from that stem. Some Draculas like sodiroi have erect spikes and grow terrestrially.
POTTING MIX: As Draculas flower through their potting medium, net pots are the best to use or hanging baskets. Sphagnum moss is the preferred medium to grow them in as this keeps the moisture around the plant and the spikes can push their way through easily without harm.
PROPAGATION: Divisions of your plants should be done after flowering when the new growths are forming their root system. Draculas do well in large clumps so don’t be too aggressive by dividing any smaller than 3 to 4 growths. It is best that you hang your Draculas so they can flower successfully, but keep them lower to the ground or have extra shade, 70%+, to keep the heat from stressing them. Good air circulation is important and can be helped by setting up a small fan in the grow house to keep the air moving.
WATERING: Watering is the same as for Masdevallias so it is critical that you keep the water up in summer and keep the plants just moist through winter. If they totally dry out, you will need to soak the plant. Net pots and hanging baskets will cause the moss to dry out much faster than plants in regular pots. It will be trial and error on how often to water as everyone’s growing conditions are different.
FERTILIZING: As Draculas do best grown in sphagnum moss, use quarter to half strength with a low nitrogen (a bloom booster fertilizer would be ideal) once a month during spring to end of summer.
FLOWERING: Most species will flower successively throughout the year on one stem, but some species, usually those that produce one flower on the stem, produce flowers in profusion only during one time of the year. Flowers will wilt if the temperature reaches above 30C. They will however, recover when it cools down and you water the plants.
PROBLEMS: There are few problems with Draculas with pests and diseases. Aphids, slugs and snails will rear their ugly heads no matter what and the only time scale will cause problems is when the plant becomes dehydrated and the leaves become withered. Use a cotton bud dipped in White Oil mix and wipe the scale away gently.